Politics

Mike Pence praises new rule that allows adoption agencies to ban gay parents

Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaks to supporters at a rally in Chesterfield, Missouri
Mike PencePhoto: Shutterstock

Mike Pence praised the Trump administration for a rule change that will allow adoption and foster agencies to refuse to work with LGBTQ families… in a speech advocating more adoption.

Pence delivered his comments about National Adoption Month at a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) event that was attended by top Trump administration officials, the Washington Blade reports.

Related: As states restrict gay adoptions, Connecticut is recruiting more LGBTQ parents

Less than two weeks ago, HHS announced that it will be reversing an Obama era rule that bans child care and public health organizations that receive HHS grants from discriminating against LGBTQ people. Many adoption and foster agencies get those grants and some have been clamoring for a right to refuse LGBTQ parents.

Pence said that he “couldn’t be more proud” of the rule that allows foster and adoption agencies to deny children a home with LGBTQ people, adding that it was “decisive action.”

“We’ve reversed the rule implemented in the closing days of the last administration that jeopardized the ability of faith-based providers to serve those in need by penalizing them for their deeply held religious beliefs,” Pence said. “We will stand for the freedom of religion and we will stand with faith-based organizations to support adoption.”

Pence said that the rule “recognizes the vital role that faith-based organizations play in adoption in this country.”

“And I’ll make you one more promise: Child welfare providers will never be forced to choose between their faith and serving those in need — not on our watch,” he said, implying that religion is inherently anti-LGBTQ.

Earlier this year, HHS granted an exemption to the rule for a South Carolina adoption agency that did not want to place children with same-sex couples and Jewish families, an example of what’s to come with the rule change.

Pence’s comments highlight how conservatives frame discrimination in adoption. There are currently 444,000 children in the foster care system in the U.S. and over 123,000 of them are up for adoption. It’s hard for conservatives to just say that they’re against LGBTQ people adopting because that’s not just discriminatory against potential parents, but comes across as cruel to the kids.

This is why Pence and other conservatives focus on the agencies that want to discriminate. In their narrative, the reason these children don’t have homes isn’t a lack of families willing to take them in, but a lack of agencies willing to place them with the abundance of families available for them.

Of course, HHS grants could just be sent to agencies that don’t discriminate. The money could help non-discriminatory agencies expand, open new offices, and hire staff, and federal money would be used more effectively to help kids find homes.

If the problem is the number of agencies that can work with families, then that’s a problem that money can solve. But if the issue is the availability of families, then HHS’s rule change is unspeakably cruel.

“It is outrageous that the Trump administration would mark the start of National Adoption Month by announcing a rule to further limit the pool of loving homes available to America’s 440,000 foster children,” said Julie Kruse of Family Equality earlier this month. “The American public overwhelmingly opposes allowing taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to turn away qualified parents simply because they are in a same-sex relationship.”

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